I recently relocated my office 3,000 miles and had to rely on a new netbook and an iPhone for all of my work needs while my main machine was in transit.
Neither the netbook nor the iPhone had Excel installed on them, which was a problem since Excel files are common on the websites I review. I didn’t want to take chances installing any additional software on my netbook or paying for an iPhone app. I just wanted something light and easy to use, preferably online.
While looking for a solution, I discovered an easy way to convert any Excel file on the web into a Google Spreadsheet without having to manually upload the file to Google.
You simply paste the URL of the Excel file you want to view after the following Google Spreadsheet URL:
It's a good idea to bookmark the above link so you have easy access to it the next time you encounter an Excel file online.
So if you want to view the Excel file of Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) latest XBRL filing with the SEC, which is located here:
You just paste the SEC URL for the file at the end of the Google Spreadsheets link, like this:
If you click on the above link, you'll be prompted to log-in to your Google account before seeing the Excel file as a Google spreadsheet. It works really fast.
Unfortunately, you have to manually paste in the URL of the Excel file you want to view each time. I looked around for a Firefox browser plug-in that would open Excel files in Google Spreadsheets automatically, but couldn't find one.
I'm back on my main machine now and don't have any trouble opening and working with Excel locally, but I'm finding that I enjoy using Google Spreadsheets and storing files in the cloud where I can access them later on any of my devices.
I’m sure there are other uses for this simple hack. You could, for example, automatically create alternative Google Spreadsheet links for any file on your site that has a .xls file extension. Investors and others who don’t have access to Excel because they’re on the road or don’t have Excel installed can use the alternate Google Spreadsheet links instead of the Excel files.
I’m surprised no one in the investor relations website space is doing this yet. Though I’m sure there’ll now be a race to do this first.